As a long-time coworking operator and consultant (and now a part of the fantastic Habu team), I’ve seen just about every coworking setup you can imagine. From complex membership schemes to highly curated programming, there’s a flavor of shared workspace setup for just about everybody.
In my time in the coworking industry I’ve come to two conclusions regarding optimal coworking space performance:
Keep It Simple
Our tendency as creatives, entrepreneurs, and innovators is to add, not to subtract. We are tempted to add new customer segments, new product offerings, and new price plans because we feel we have to or that the opportunity is too valuable to pass up. It’s no wonder then that, over time, all this adding results in a plethora of disparate customer segments, product offerings, and price plans.
Not only is this disparateness confusing for prospective members and community partners, but it's also insanely difficult to manage.
So keep it simple.
Instead of having seven price plans, one for each scenario you can think of, have just three or four. For traditional coworking spaces, this might look like one part-time membership, a full-time hotdesking membership, a reserved desk membership, and an office membership.
“But what about customer X?!” you exclaim. “She wants a membership that includes a coffee on her desk in the morning, a long walk for her dog, and a pool of coworking hours for the various partners that show up at totally random times.”
Well, assuming all of those things are things you offer, then customer X can only be two things. A variation of one of your core customer types, in which case you can provide a custom deal for them if you so choose, or they are not your customer. Highly specific customer requests often result in a lot more management and handholding for too little payoff or cause you to do things entirely outside your core offering, jeopardizing your business model.
I know, in the beginning, it can be hard to say no to that extra money, but once you take money for something you’re coworking space doesn’t offer, you set a hard-to-extinguish precedent for future transactions.
On the software side of things, we often hear about requests for special features that aren’t core to the functionality of a coworking space. It’s critical to understand that the reason most coworking software platforms are set up the way they are is that they are designed to help you run your coworking space in the most optimal way possible.
Trust me, adding that additional price plan isn’t going to affect your business in any other way than confusing prospects and adding unnecessary administrative time to your week.
Focus On One Big Thing
Every part of your coworking business should be serving one core mission. Maybe that’s as lofty as putting a colony on Mars or as practical as giving parents a place to work where they can bring their kids. It could be anything in between.
But please don’t be the space that wants to put a colony on Mars, be kid friendly, offer catered vegan lunches every day, and host a startup pitch competition every Thursday evening.
Every single activity and product offering should serve your one big thing. The one big thing is the thing you are hoping your members ultimately accomplish by using your space.
Impact Hub, for example, hopes that its members will solve our world’s most pressing social and environmental issues.
Bespoke wants their members to take fashion retail to the next level with innovative technologies and business models.
No, the big thing isn’t rocket science, but it is incredibly important.
I think this quote by Bruce Lee pretty much sums all of my thoughts here: “The height of cultivation runs to simplicity.” It’s true, keep it simple. You’ll thank yourself.